Saturday, April 29, 2017

Learning Dispatch - April 29th, 2017 - On Essays


I want to understand how we can make our learning more social. I love having conversations with friends and colleagues about new insights and learnings. So these dispatches are part of an effort to get those conversations started. 

This past week, I stumbled across this link to an article titled, '40 Best Essays of All Time' on a blog called

I've always been fascinated by the art of Essay Writing. Michael de Montaigne one of the pioneers of the form first published his 'Essais' in 1580. The term actually signifies 'attempts'. Attempts, Attempts! I already liked this. An attempt to discuss a matter, express a point of view, persuade us to accept a thesis on any subject or simply entertain. 

In the book he writes essays on topics like, 'Of Illness' and 'Of Sleeping'. This completely blew my mind away. I've always wanted to read written material on subjects like this. The names of some well known essayists include Francis Bacon, Alexander Pope, William Hazlit, Charles Lamb, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Joan Didion, Atul Gawande and Oliver Sacks. I spent the last week just reading through some of the essays mentioned in the above link. It was so much fun and there was so much to learn from these writers. 

In this piece I have attached a link to some of the pieces I really enjoyed reading from the article. I have also included a sentence or passage from the essay that got me super excited about the form, 

My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum (1999) about how the author's dream of staying in Manhattan turned into a nightmare. 
"Earlier this summer I was walking down West End Avenue in Manhattan and remembered, with a sadness that nearly knocked me off my feet, just why I came to New York seven years ago and just why I am now about to leave."

Laugh, Kookaburra by David Sedaris (2009) about a trip the author took to the Australian wilderness and the birds he met, the food he ate and the people he bumped into on his journey back home.
"The kookaburra must have slammed the meat against the wooden platform a good ten times. Only then did he swallow it, and look up, expectantly, for more."

Fail Better by Zadie Smith (2007) on writing the perfect novel and the responsibilities of readers.
"I've often thought it would be fascinating to ask living writers: "Never mind critics, what do you yourself think is wrong with your writing? How did you dream of your book before it was created? What were your best hopes? How have you let yourself down?" A map of disappointments - that would be a revelation."

On Fear by Mary Ruefle (2012) on the fears of a poet and our positive capability
"No one ever feared being born, even when all those responsible for the event were fraught with fear for the unborn. And if I may segue to a child at the age of four, I recall watching her beingapproached by a dog that was, well, much larger than the girl herself. The girl’s face was astonishing to watch."

Dispatch from a Man without a Country (2004) by Kurt Vonnegut on studying chemistry and anthropology but writing literature for a living.
"But I have to say this in defense of humankind: In no matter what era in history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody just got here. And, except for the Garden of Eden, there were already all these games going on that could make you act crazy, even if you weren’t crazy to begin with. Some of the crazymaking games going on today are love and hate, liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and credit cards, golf, and girls’ basketball."

Links to the work of other Essayists for further exploration
- Joan Didion on individual and social fragmentation
- Atul Gawande on death, health policy and the doctor's life
- Oliver Sacks on neurobiological illness and the patient experience
- Virginia Woolf on moths, literature and a room of one's own
- David Foster Wallace on lobsters, David Lynch and Federer as a religious experience
- George Orwell on elephants, Gandhi and political texts
- Adam Gopnik on food, life in Paris and cronuts

If you have some time, please please do this for me. Read some of the above essays and more. If you get inspired, please attempt to write an essay. I'd love to read another essay! 

29th April 2017

No comments:

Post a Comment